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Fall Prevention for Older Adults

Better Strength, Better Balance! Exercise Program

Woman holding hand weights

Better Strength, Better Balance! is a fall prevention exercise and education program for people aged 65+. It is funded by the Champlain Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) through Pinecrest-Queensway Community Health Centre, and is a collaborative effort between Ottawa Public Health and Recreation, Cultural and Facility Services.

This is a beginner level program for those wishing to improve their strength and balance. Strong muscles, strong bones and better balance will make you more mobile and less likely to fall.

You are strong enough to participate safely if you can do ALL of the following:

  • stand on one foot for 2 seconds
  • stand for 20 minutes (e.g. in a grocery line)
  • walk one block (100 metres or 325 feet) without becoming out of breath and needing to sit down
  • walk up 10 stairs

Better Strength, Better Balance! classes are unsuitable for people who are very active.

Participants attend class twice a week for 12 weeks.

  • Classes are progressive, becoming increasingly difficult over the 12 weeks.
  • Participants practice exercises at home and review the provided health information related to preventing falls.
  • A variety of simple equipment is used, including bean bags, cones, stretch bands, and balls.

The program is offered in the winter, spring and fall

  • April 3 to June 23, 2017
  • September 18 to December 8, 2017

First time participants can register for the next available session at any time. Call Ottawa Public Health at 613-580-6744 (TTY: 613-580-9656).

Returning participants can register on or after these dates:

  • Fall 2017 registration begins August 22, 2017 starting at 8:30 am

To register or for more information please call Ottawa Public Health at 613-580-6744 (TTY: 613-580-9656).

Learn more about staying active as you age.

Download a poster [ PDF - 278.72 KB ] and help promote the Better Strength, Better Balance Exercise Program in your community!

Better Strength, Better Balance! fall prevention exercise and education program now on Rogers TV 22.

  • Monday to Friday at 2:30 pm
  • Saturday at 8:30 am

Dates and times subject to change. Check the Rogers 22 program schedule for airing dates and times.

For the full schedule and more information, please visit the Ottawa Public Health website.

Safety in your home

Throughout your home ensure that:

  • Floors are not slippery.
  • Pathways are clear of extension cords and other objects.
  • Rugs have no ripples or tears.
  • Scatter mats are removed or taped to the floor.
  • Low tables are removed from the middle of the living room.
  • All furniture is sturdy.
  • Chairs have armrests and are the correct height.
  • All light fixtures have a minimum of 60 watt bulbs.
  • Entrance to every room has a light switch.
  • Stepladder or step stool is sturdy, and the step surface is not slippery.
  • Items used every day are stored within easy reach.


  • Doors open easily.
  • There is a sturdy seat with arm rests.
  • Mail is within easy reach.
  • Exterior and interior lighting is good.
  • Outside pathways are free of lawn furniture, hoses and other objects.


  • A telephone is easily reached from the bed.
  • A lamp is easily reached from the bed.
  • The bed is the correct height.


  • Bath-tub plug is easy to reach, and to use.
  • A rubber mat is used for every bath or shower, or.
  • Anti-slip decals on the bottom of the bath-tub are no more than 2" apart.
  • There are at least two grab bars in the tub area
  • Portable grab bars (on the side of the tub) do not move when used for support.
  • Rug outside the bathtub has a rubber backing.

If you have problems getting into or out of the bath-tub, use:

  • a bath seat.
  • a hand held shower.

If you have problems sitting on or getting up from the toilet, use:

  • a raised toilet seat.
  • a grab bar conveniently located.

Stairs (inside and outside)

  • Stair edges are marked with contrasting colour.
  • All steps are the same height.
  • All steps are the same depth.
  • Stairs have a non-slip surface.
  • Handrails are present on both sides of stairs.
  • Handrail height feels comfortable when used for support.
  • Handrails extends 12 inches beyond the top and bottom steps.
  • Handrails are round.

Stairway safety checklist and recommendations

Here’s a form that will help you do a quick check. The more times you answer ”Done”, the better. Some “To do” answers will point to changes you can make to increase safety, such as adding non-slip paint or brighter lights; some may highlight dangers that may be more difficult and costly to fix (it’s hard to change the height or depth of a step). At least being aware of the hazard may help people take more care.

Safe Stairs



To do

Are the steps no more than 18 cm (7 inches) high and consistent in height?

  • When thinking of renovations, ensure steps are of consistent height.

Are the steps at least 28 cm (11 inches) deep and consistent in depth?

  • When thinking of renovations, ensure steps are of consistent depth.

Are the stairs closed at the back so your foot can’t slip through?


Are carpets or runners low-pile?

  • Avoid visually distracting patterns.

Are carpets or runners securely fastened?

  • Repair or replace tread surfaces.
  • Covering should be glued or firmly secured.

Do all doors open away from the steps, not over them?

  • Reverse the door hinges so that the door opens away from the steps.

Does the surface of all steps have a non-slip finish?

  • Apply paint or varnish that has grit mixed in by the manufacturer on all stairs.
  • DO NOT wax stairs.

Stairs are maintained with no deterioration?

  • Repair as needed.

Stairs are free of clutter or any objects at all times?

  • Mop up spills or water immediately.

Stairs and pathways into the building level are clear and free of ice and snow in winter?

Visibility and Lighting



To do

Are the edges of the stairs marked with a contrasting strip of colour (at a minimum on the top and bottom step)?

  • Use yellow or contrasting colour paint to ensure clear marking.

Are the stairs well lit, with at least two light switches?

  • Install a light switch at both the bottom and the top of the stairs.

Are the light bulbs the strongest wattage allowed in the fixtures?

  • Use at least 60 – 100 watt light bulbs.



To do

Is there a handrail? Are there (even safer) two handrails?

  • Handrails are firmly attached on both sides of the stairs.

Do the handrails extend uninterrupted the full length of the stairs?


Is the circumference of the handrails 16 cm (6.25 inches) or smaller?

  • Make handrails round and small enough so two-thirds of hand wraps around.

Are the handrails securely fastened?

  • Repair loose or broken handrails.

Are the handrails free from decorations during festive celebrations?


Adapted from Steps to Safer Stairs, Community Health Research Unit, University of Ottawa 2006

Personal habits

  • Move slowly after lying or sitting to prevent dizziness.
  • Always wear well fitted shoes or slippers with low heels and non-slip soles.
  • Do not wear long skirts, long house coats, or loose slacks.
  • Do not use bath oil.
  • Turn on a night light before going to bed.
  • Turn on a light when getting up at night.
  • Avoid using a ladder or step stool.